I seem to be coming up with different interpretations of life now that I am an AP. Seeing the world without rose-colored glasses creates a more accurate perspective on how the man-behind-the-curtain operates and sharing that perspective with BJA gives me a chance to express my views (accepted or not) and to make others question how the inner-workings tick, whether it be good or bad. Hopefully you enjoy what I’ve written and your comments are appreciated.
A few weeks ago, I was asked a simple question, “What was the first AP play you ever did?” I never had an answer for this question until something nostalgic reminded me of my childhood. During my youth I was an avid player of video games and I loved reading “GamePro” and “Nintendo Power” to master any game I could play. Renting a game for $3 a day and beating them in a single night was an ego boost that any kid would need, that played as often and routinely as I did. On a positive note, they kept me out of trouble and away from drugs, drinking, and smoking. It was almost an instinctive way to build a wall to separate myself from the negative and keep it away during my vulnerable years. However that didn’t stop my health class from meeting once a day for 50 minutes to discuss procreation, drugs, and malicious tactics companies used for you to buy their product. Still to this day, Joe Camel is embedded into my brain, pleasantly brandishing a pack of cigarettes with one of them extended out in your direction. This ad, however, was placed in many magazines from Playboy, to Archie, in the hopes of selling their product to new customers and possibly a young, lifetime customer.
Over the next two decades, those ads were removed from any child type of reading material, but other, just as effective, but less direct, ways have been tried to appeal to a younger crowd to sell their product. “Dos Equis” comes to my mind during the current ad campaign, where by showing that the most interesting man in the world drinks “Dos Equis” and only “Dos Equis” when he does, feeds into the current psyche of teens/young adults and longing for peer acceptance in their school. While in school, the mass majority of the guys wanted to be the star quarter back, head of the wrestling team, etc because they always had friends and got girls. The same is true for the girls with the cheerleader’s team captain, having a boyfriend, or being the hottest girl in school. They all want to be like that person and accepted as such. “Dos Equis” doesn’t directly say, “Drinking is cool,” but indirectly they are saying to be cool and interesting, you must drink me, along with the slogan, “Stay Thirsty My Friends,” speaks volumes in that it means to drink our beer and a lot of it.
Many forms of Psychology are used in ads today to “lure” in clientele to make more money. These tactics work most of the time and the weak succumb to them and fulfill what the ad says, even if they don’t do it intentionally, they find themselves reaching, wanting, or remembering the ad and lean toward that product. These forms of Psychology are also used by (you guessed it) casinos, to “lure” in the weak and pull the pennies from their penny loafers. As you enter you hear, “Win Big!” but as you leave you hear, “Sucks to be you,” as the door hits you on the way out. Yet, gambling seems to be more accepted by the younger generation, much like those Joe Camel ads from decades before, with online poker, happy ads/commercials, and nighttime debauchery. But if casinos, like the cigarette companies, wanted to start them young, none of this would appeal to a child’s age bracket. I never could understand why this was the case, until I was able to answer the question about my first AP play.
I was in my local mall arcade and needed to make 10000 tickets to earn myself a Super Nintendo as I didn’t have the money to purchase one myself. This came with two controllers, the system, Super Mario World and Street Fighter 2, which would have costed $375 +tax and I only had $40 on me. Sadly this was no easy task as many of the machines only gave out a maximum of 5-7 tickets a quarter on the good ones, else 1-3 was the best I could do. A few new machines were installed last week. The dino-coin flip game where you would flip your coin from a movable handle and try to have it land in one of the caves, Swamp Olympics, where you had to mash the hop buttons to make your frog move up the game and hit the finish line, and lastly Slope Jumping.
Slope Jumping had a rotating wheel in the center that went from 10-250 tickets and all misses were 3-5 tickets. You would put the coin in the slot and it would roll down and launch into the air to try to get into the rotating wheel slots, much like a ski jumper through a floating ring in the air. After watching Slope Jumping, I noticed that every time the center of the 15 ticket slot appeared at the top of the wheel and you release the coin, you would hit the 250 ticket slot most of the time. Within $5 I had emptied the ticket box and had almost 3500 tickets. The arcade tech came by and refilled the box and I continued. Twelve dollars in, the box was empty again and I had 9000 tickets. The boss of the arcade began to catch on that something was amiss, so he filled the box again and began to watch me. After 10 more tries and 8 hits, he pulled the plug on the machine and put the “out of order” sign on it.
I gathered my tickets, folded into strips of 500 each, and went to ticket redemption to claim my prize. I had enough tickets to get my Super Nintendo and some tootsie rolls to celebrate. The girl at the counter gave me the tootsie rolls and had to call the boss to get the keys for the big prizes. I began eating my candy when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and a cop (a real cop, not a rent-a-mall-cop) was standing before me. I remember the cops face; almost puzzled at the fact that I hadn’t shit myself, as later I came to find out that the boss of the arcade told the cop I had cheated to win the prize.
“Son,” the cop said sternly, “Where did you get all those tickets?” I pointed to the Slope Jumping machine, now off. “Can you show me how you did it?” I nodded and walked over to the machine, which the cop instructed the boss to plug back in. Once the wheel ran its course, I took another quarter from my pocket and setup the shot again, nailing it on the first try.
“Can you do it again?” the cop asked, and I repeated the shot, making it again. The cop told the boss to unplug the machine as I collected more tickets and brought them over to the Ticket Redemption counter for more candy, with both the boss and cop in tow. “What item did you want,” the cop said, and I pointed to the Super Nintendo.
The cop looked at the boss and said, “Does he have enough tickets?”
The boss checked the ticket reader and said, “Yes, he does, but he cheated to get them.”
To which the cop replied, “If he cheated to get those tickets, then every other kid putting a quarter into your machine is also cheating. Do you want me to arrest everyone in your establishment?”
The boss stood their quietly and reluctantly got out his keys and retrieved the Super Nintendo from the locked glass. He placed it on the table along with all the tootsie rolls I could get as well. The cop told me to take my candy and he would carry the Super Nintendo box to my parents. We left and approached my parents in the food court section of the mall and the cop handed my dad the box. My mom took me aside so the cop and my dad could talk, so she put me on the mall’s carousel while they did. Needless to say the cop took my side as I proved I did nothing wrong.
This memory came to me today as I walked into an arcade with a mix of new and old games. I reminisced about how the quarters sounded in the slots in the old days (as they use cards now) and all the 8-bit bleeps and blops coming from them. Near those machines was the old crane game, where you could try to pull a stuffed toy out of the bin if you had enough skill. Then it clicked, technically the crane game is a form of gambling…as you aren’t really getting a game out of it per se, unlike Pac-Man and Burgertime. You were betting a quarter that you had enough skill to beat the game and get the stuffed toy. Isn’t that no different than gambling? On top of that, the game had a double edge in the favor of the machine. First the items in the game are practically worthless. Second, any time after the first try the machine made profit. So it was made apparent to me that the old crane game was a game of chance…gambling.
As I looked further down the line, there were newer games like the old crane ones. There was a stacker game, where you had to stop the box moving back and forth exactly on top of the other squares in order to win and if your timing was off, you lose. A keyhole game, where you lined up the key that sits at the end of a rod and try to fit it perfectly through a keyhole in order to get a prize. There were a few more, but even with these named few, it seems that gambling is not only in our nature, but easily accessible by our young children in the closest arcade or shop that has these machines. Unlike outdated ads, video games have always been looked at as entertainment and fun, but when you add a situation that involves chance into a game, it no longer is a video game, it’s a gambling machine. Kids and other people don’t know the difference, but seeing how other companies peddle their wares through malicious means, these games may not be the root of why gambling is on the rise, but it sure adds salt to the wound don’t you think?
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